November-December 2014 … The Global Online Magazine of Arts, Information & Entertainment … Volume 10, Number 6
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The Theater of Service:

Winnie Owens and Patty Minkler


By Jonathan Evans 

Colorado City, CO — I went to see the latest production at The Playhouse in Rye recently, not really knowing what to expect.  What I saw was a fun amateur comedy, primarily acted by teenagers; it had been rehearsed and produced in only four weeks and in the circumstances, it was a very brave effort.

The following morning I went back to the Theater to talk with Winnie Owens and Patty Minkler, the co-directors of the show.  I have to say that I had been warned that Winnie was a spiky lady, hard to pin down and outspoken when she was.  Patty is the local deputy sheriff in Colorado City, a forceful and prominent member of the locality- and not somebody I would have normally associated with the ancient art of Theater.  I came away from the meeting with my ideas completely turned around, not only about these members of the Greenhorn Valley community but about the role that theater can play in all our lives.  

Winnie was born in Butte, Montana, settled with her husband in Rye in 1966 and has been with the Greenhorn Valley Players for twenty years.   She took her two children to an audition for a play in the late eighties and never looked back.  Painfully shy as a child herself, she admits, theater and acting have given her greater self-confidence but went on to draw my attention to the fact that she’d still felt more comfortable wearing a Halloween mask when she’d introduced the show from the stage the night before.  This is not a woman who wants to hog the limelight and she is still frightened by the stage lights!

With an incredibly hectic life spread between the running of her home, a long-term job as liaison at the Muddy Creek Ranch and her position and responsibilities as president of the Playhouse Theater, Winnie has total commitment to Theater.  For her it is the ultimate art form and medium for self-expression, incorporating fiction, art, acting and the nitty-gritty magic of live performance.

“What you see is what you get”, she says, “right there in front of your eyes.”   She might well be talking about herself.

 This year she has seen five plays onto the stage in Rye, acted in three of them and directed two.

Patty comes from Beulah and has been in law-enforcement for twenty four years.  She has been active in the Lions Club and their distribution of food and care packages and is head of the Parade of Lights, a project very important to her because, she says, it serves to unite the towns of Rye and Colorado City at Christmas.  Most essential to her, is her service in the schools with young people and with the elderly in the community.  For her, a new involvement with the Greenhorn Valley Players and the Rye Playhouse has been an extension of this service, in a life spent looking for new ways to serve.

 She came on board as an actress to play a cop in the production of ‘Spirit’ early in 2009, got the bug and stayed on.   Patty loves to sew and makes all the costumes for the shows as well as recently moving into the role of director.

Between the two of them, they have been instrumental in the cleaning, the revamping and the makeover that the Playhouse has had recently.  With further ambitions to improve the seating, the interior and exterior, the building itself has gone from an old Mercantile store to the comfortable, well-lit ninety-five seat theater that it currently is.  And one has the sense that their work on this theater has only just begun.

But by far the most important role that they have seen for the theater goes beyond the next play or the next production.  For Winnie and Patty, the theater is about family and community building and about preserving local history and culture.  For some families, the theater is a thread of continuity which runs throughout their lives, as they take part in productions as children, grow up and have their own children do the same.  Acting can be a great confidence builder and can take the participants into realms that they never even dreamed existed. 

Theater, too, is the great educator as it holds a mirror up to life, up to our own faces and follies, both as actors and audience, and explores, exposes and in the end, applauds our common efforts.  It can bond a society, actors to audience, in a way that no other art form can.  It is a shared experience that can affect the way that each and every one of us sees ourselves and each other. You have to be brave to participate on the stage of everyday existence and theater is no less demanding.


Ed note: With this issue, begins a search for what’s happening in the far reaches of America, and the globe. We’d like to know more about theater, art events, musicians, etc. We’re looking for quality writing/reporting from the heartland and the hinterlands to share with a growing global audience. If you write about music, theater or art, take photographs, record poetry and song, or have an idea for an article that highlights something special in your world, from the arts to politics to economics, keep us in mind. We need all the help we can get!

1 comment

1 Joseph Lindsley { 01.06.10 at 11:17 pm }

I miss affordable theater.
I miss the incredible anticipation waiting for the curtain to rise or part. And the taking a deep breathe as I loose myself in this other world